Note: This article was supposed to be the third part of a series for Baseball Digest, however, the site folded before it was ever published, therefore I'm posting it here three weeks after it was written. Enjoy!
In 2011 the Toronto Blue Jays finished out of the playoffs for the 18th consecutive season finishing 4th in their division with 81 wins and 81 losses. However, all was not doom and gloom for this team as the season was filled with positives such as the emergence of Canadian born Brett Lawrie, a repeat Hank Aaron award winning season for Jose Bautista and continued stockpiling of the farm system by GM Alex Anthopolous.
There are remarkably few positions on the Toronto Blue Jays up for the taking this year, the rotation looks set, the revamped bullpen is full, and the only position on the field that could be up for grabs is left fields and even then the team has identified a clear front runner. Therefore, let’s take a quick look at the projected 25 man opening day roster:
- Romero, Ricky - The ace
- Morrow, Brandon – The guy who has the stuff to be the ace
- Alvarez, Henderson – The rookie coming off a strong 10 game audition in 2011
- Cecil, Brett – The guy looking to rebound and winner of this spring training’s “best shape of his life” award
- McGowan, Dustin – The remarkable talent without any remaining ‘options’
The Starter – On Deck
It has been said by numerous prognosticators and minor league evaluators that the Toronto Blue Jays have the greatest depth of minor league talent of any team in baseball and their strength is pitching. However, there aren’t that many we can expect to make an impact this season. One player who could play a role is Kyle Drabek who is coming off a disappointing season in both the majors and the minors, but with his talent it’s too early to give up on him yet, and with any young pitcher you never know when the light bulb turns on and he finally gets it.
- Sergio Santos – The closer everyone wanted
- Francisco Cordero – The closer no one wanted in spite of great numbers last season, so he signed as a set up man
- Darren Oliver – The LOOGY, but not really (have you seen his splits? Under a .600 OPS against vs. Both lefty’s and righty’s)
- Casey Janssen – The stud from last season
- Jason Frasor – The Jays all time leader in appearances for a pitcher was reacquired in the off-season because we just couldn’t get enough of him
- Carlos Villanueva – The stud reliever who’s numbers get watered down every year because of mediocre spot starts
- Luis Perez – The guy who shouldn’t have a spot on the roster but there is a rule that all bullpens must have two lefty’s
I’ve left Jesse Litsch off the bullpen roster, who otherwise should be there. However he has recently been shut down due to shoulder inflammation, including having a visit to the dreaded Dr. James Andrews.
The Starting Infield
- Adam Lind (1B) – It seems everyone in Toronto has given up on this guy, but I still have hope
- Kelly Johnson (2B) – Underrated, or is he? Yes, yes he is! I think? Oh who the hell knows what to expect from him?
- Yunel Escobar (SS) – Someone said that Yunel is the best shortstop in the American League and my immediate reaction was disbelief. But then I couldn’t name anyone better than him?
- Brett Lawrie (3B) – The franchise! No pressure kid
The Starting Outfield
- Eric Thames – I expect big things this year from Thames, and not just because he showed up to camp with arms the size of my head. Although, many others think Travis Snider should be starting over him
- Colby Rasmus – With Tony LaRussa out of his head could this be the year he takes off? Probably not, but he should be better than last season
- Jose Bautista – The home run king who should have won the American League most valuable player award last season
The Designated Hitter
- Edwin Encarnacion – He put up monster numbers last season when he started at DH, let’s hope the team doesn’t need to put him anywhere else this season
- Travis Snider – He may start the season in the minors so that he can play every day, however because he may also be the team’s starting left fielder, I’m leaving him on the roster
- Rajai Davis – I love having a guy like this on the bench!
- Jeff Mathis – The no hit, back-up catcher guy
- Omar Vizquel – The veteran presence on the bench
- Ben Francisco – The player acquired during the off season that didn’t make a lot of sense?
As I mentioned above the Toronto Blue Jays minor league system is one of the highest rated in baseball, which is greatly due to its depth of talent. However, while there are many that could break out and become elite prospects this season, it is hard to pin point anyone that I would consider a “can’t miss” prospect (sorry Travis D’Anraud). I also don’t think there is really anyone in the minor leagues that will have a major impact with the big club in 2012, as almost all of the decent prospects are at least a year away. If I had to pick someone to make an impact with the Blue Jays this season, I suspect that it would be a starting pitcher, possibly a Deck McGuire or a Drew Hutchinson.
Blue Jays MVP – Jose Bautista
Blue Jays Ace (pitcher) – Brandon Morrow
Blue Jays's 2012 record – 85-77
Blue Jay's 2012 finish in division – 4th
It seems this team is fully of guys that could be either elite, or horrible, so it really is difficult to project how they will do. Overall I see this team with fewer holes in their line-up than last season, a lot of young talent that will continue to improve, a much improved bullpen, and specifically I’m projecting better seasons from Brandon Morrow, Colby Rasmus, Kelly Johnson and Adam Lind. Regardless, it will be fun to watch.
Blue Jays logo, courtesy SportsLogos.net.